By Dan Truttschel/Sports Correspondent

It didn’t take long to see how talented the DeForest girls basketball team was Sat-urday afternoon at Janesville Craig.

The Norskies were ranked in the top five in the state, and in a flash, they flexed their muscles and took Wilmot out of its first-ever sectional final in a 65-30 victory.

Wilmot closed its season at 18-8 overall, while DeForest improved to 25-1 and sends the Norskies to this week’s state tournament at the Resch Center, Green Bay. DeForest opens play against La Crosse Central (21-5), and the winner will face either Notre Dame (25-1) or Pius (24-2) Saturday for the state title.

While the loss was tough to swallow, the Panthers took yet another big step forward this year, coach Keiya Square said. Wilmot defended its Southern Lakes Conference title and won its second straight regional crown as well.

“I am very proud of this team,” he said. “Before the season, we had kids not come out that we were looking to fill some spots, and then we lost some games early and really had to battle uphill all year in the conference.

“We also put together a really tough non-conference schedule, and there were some games where we got beat up pretty badly, but the girls came back to practice the next day ready to go and get bet-ter.”

After Wilmot’s comeback win over McFarland in the sectional semifinal, Square and his coaching staff quickly turned their attention to DeForest, which edged Monona Grove.

And what they saw was a talented squad led by 6-foot junior standout Kayla Goth.

And she certainly didn’t disappoint.

“Goth was better in per-son,” Square said. “It’s hard to determine speed from the film, and we thought she was someone that we could force into traps, but she was faster with the ball than I expected.

“(She’s) someone that makes their team go. We really wanted to try and keep her in front of us and out of the lane. She does a great job of getting past the defender, and either scoring or getting an easy shot for a teammate.”

Wilmot led 2-0 on a basket by Rachel Szyldowski off an assist by Olivia Klahs, but from there, the rest of the quarter was all Norskies.

DeForest rattled off 17 of the next 19 points to take control and never gave it back. The Norskies’ pressure defense, which forced Wilmot into 25 turnovers (10 in the first quarter), was a challenge to overcome, Square said.

“They were long,” he said. “When they got into that 1-2-2 look and were trapping with three 6-0 kids at the top, it was hard for our guards to deal with.”

Wilmot also played without junior Marnie Destree for a second straight night after she suffered a knee injury earlier in the week. Square said the extent of her injury still is unknown.

Destree’s absence forced other girls into new roles, Square said.

“We had kids throwing the ball in that weren’t used to it,” he said. “Marnie was our inbounder all year. It sounds like an easy job, but it is very important.”

Wilmot missed 11 of its 12 field-goal attempts in the first quarter and trailed by four at 18-4. DeForest held a 36-16 advantage at halftime, and the closest the Panthers could get from there was 18 on a pair of free throws by Kari Clements early in the third quarter.

When the Panthers did beat the DeForest pressure, they were able to do some good things offensively, Square said.

“We just couldn’t knock down the open looks,” he said. “Also, again their length gave us some problems.

“They were able to get into passing lanes with their big kids and jump our reversal passes, knowing if they missed they had six-foot kids behind them to help out.”

Sam Kirk led the Panthers with nine points, followed by Szyldowski with eight. Goth led all scorers with 18.

The loss ended the Wilmot playing careers of three seniors, Clements, Danielle Klotz and Jenna Damon – the only three to last in the program all four years, Square said.

“I am really proud of these three kids,” he said. “Out of a school of 1,100 kids, they are the only three girls to stick it out for us for all four years.

“They were freshmen when we first got here, and I think other kids can learn from the success that they were able to have in four years and understand that it won’t happen without hard work.”

Results of All-SLC voting and a statistical wrap up will run in a future edition.



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